This is actually part of a series I have been working on (Read:Thinking about in the shower) for awhile. The other parts will be up when I feel like it.
Deciding to become a parent, or discovering you are about to be can send you frantically searching the Internet reading every book you can find, and interrogating everyone you know who has ever seen a child on what to expect. The thing is, while the Internet has approximately two billion pages related to pregnancy and child-rearing, the bookstore has 76,003 books on the topic and most parents won’t shut up about their kids, and are more than thrilled to tell you the Right Way To Do Everything, 97% of the tips, tricks and information you find are going to be crap that has absolutely not-a-damn-thing to do with the actual pregnancy experience you will have and the actual child(ren) you will end up with. And, trust me, even if you DON’T ask, people are going to give you advice and tell you their horrible, horrible labor stories while using words like “mucus plug” and discussing “placenta options”. (The best option: Don’t look at it. Just…don’t. )
Anyway, as a veteran (ha!) mother of four with such credentials as “I haven’t locked any of them in my car by accident, yet.” and “Most of them can kind-of wipe their own asses!”, I’ve decided that this makes me qualified to give you advice that doesn’t suck, and share with you the facts that you really need to know about this journey you are about to go on.
I’m starting with toddlers, instead of pregnancy, mostly because I’ve spent the last week dealing with the stomach plague and this one was closer to being done than “pregnancy”.
-Toddlers are terrorists.
The first thing you need to know is that toddlers are, in fact, tiny dictators who will completely rule your life. The sooner you recognize this fact and accept it, the better off you will be.
-The “Terrible Two’s” start at 18 months
and um, I’ll let you know when they end.
-Your child is going to publicly humiliate you. More than once.
Childrens mouths learn to form words well before their brain learns to filter them (I’ll let you know when the filtering kicks in just as soon as that actually happens) so you will, at some point, end up in public with a child who dramatically points at the overweight man behind you and asks loudly if he is the Staypuff Marshmellow Man, or why that lady is made out of chocolate. Also, you will, at some point, end up in a store or restaurant with a toddler who is screaming and flailing and basically acting like they have a problem that requires medication, or perhaps a priest. And half the people who see you will be judging you and thinking “MY children will NEVER act like that.” and the other half will be laughing at you because they know you were once the person judging THEM and saying “MY child will NEVER act like that.” and, well, karma is a bitch. Which brings us to…
-You will find yourself doing most of those things you swore you’d never do.
Don’t feel bad. All of us are great parents until we actually HAVE children. Also, don’t be surprised if you start channeling your own mother or father at some point.
-Nature made toddlers adorable to keep us from killing them.
No matter what kind of evil mischief your kid gets into, all they have to do is smile at you and all will be forgiven. For example, they could, say, strip naked while supposedly taking a nap, poop on the floor, empty the contents of every drawer in their room, cover everything-including themselves- with marker, and when you open the door and are just about to lose your shit, they will jump up, smile, throw their hands in the air and yell, “HAPPY BIRFDAY!” And all is lost.
-Everyone has an opinion. And they are all wrong.
When you have a kid, people seem to feel obligated to share with you what their child, nephew or third-cousin-twice-removed was doing at that age, and why your child is slow/weird/possibly autistic for not. It’s going to make you crazy and you’ll be tempted to let it get to you and start playing “Keeping up with the Madisons'”. Don’t. So that Madison kid in your playgroup was walking at ten months and conjugating Latin by 2 1/2, while your baby has just managed to master the delicate art of getting her finger IN her nostril instead of her eye. There’s a WIDE range of “normal” for all those milestones so throw out that “What to Expect” book and relax. Unless your pediatrician is concerned (and in some cases, even if they are) do not stress over when your kid is going to walk, talk, jump, and learn French. It will come. I had one walk at nine months old and one walk at nearly sixteen months. But they all walked, eventually. Also, for the love of the gods,
– Do not stress about potty training.
Just don’t. Kids do it when they are ready. No sooner, no later. All the M&M’s and “Once Upon a Potty” books in the world won’t make a damn bit of difference if your child just isn’t ready. Just let them watch you go. (Yeah, accept the fact that you’ll be going to the bathroom with an audience for the next ten years, sorry.) Talk to them about it. Cheer and wave “bye-bye” after they flush for you. Sit them on the potty every so often. It’ll come. And once it does, you’ll get the wonderful tour of every dirty restroom in your entire city experience, and the joy of Teaching Them To Pee Behind The Bush At The Rest Stop so enjoy your diaper time while you have it. Also, put Post Its in your purse. Use them to cover the sensors on those godawful self-flushing toilets with the child-strength suction. Trust me on this, the “Toilets Trying To Eat Me” nightmares and an irrational fear of public toilets require lots of therapy (for you) and lots of peeing on the floor in Target (for them) (hopefully in that order).
-Your toddler will eventually learn to do everything.
At once. You’ll look over to see them riding a unicycle while juggling and singing “Twinkle, Twinkle” in French. And your camera batteries will be dead. And when you rush out and gather everyone you know to come and see, and you tell them all excitedly to “Watch what he can do!” they will surround him and he will be sitting on the floor, drooling, with a finger up one nostril…
…and no pants. Even though he had pants five seconds ago and Where the hell are your pants, kid?
-Toddlers live by a unique set of internal rules.
These rules usually require them to want the opposite of any given thing at any time. If the light it on, it must be off. If something is closed it must be opened, if it is opened, it MUST be closed. When you want to stay, they want to leave, when you want to go, they must not leave, ever. Don’t ever ask them what they want, to wear for example. (The answer will be “No.”) Give them two choices you are ok with and let them pick one. (The answer will still probably be “No.”)
-They are faster than you.
You will spend twenty minutes wrestling them into clothing and shoes and then you will turn around, pick up your purse and take one step only to find them completely naked with shoes on their hands. Plan accordingly. You will never be “On time” for anything again.
-99.4% of your Facebook Friends do not care about your experiences with potty training. That adorable picture of your toddler in the bathtub with a soap mohawk? The sweet video of him in his first halloween costume toddling towards the camera?
They. Don’t. Care.
Your kid is the most adorable and awesome kid in the world. But aside from the kids grandparents who live far away and that one friend with the puppy screen saver, the rest of the world does not want to see 1257864 potty training updates and video of every single thing he ever did, ever.
– Your kid is probably eating enough.
Yes, I know she had four Cheerios, a half a dog-treat and that thing from under the couch that might have been a skittle or might have been a bead for lunch. You’re going to stress about this. Don’t. As long as they get a somewhat balanced variety of food over the course of a week and they aren’t losing weight or turning funny colors, and poop is still coming out, it’s all good. Throw in a vitamin or some Pediasure from time to time if it’s bothering you that much.
-Don’t worry. They’re all bi-polar, manipulative little rabid raccoons.
You kid is going to be weird. And that’s normal. (probably) One minute they will be joyously laughing, the next, having the meltdown to end all meltdowns. Put DOWN the Lithium. Step away from the Internet child psychology websites. I know your cousins grandmas sister was psychotic, but so is every other toddler on the planet. They’ll grow out of it. (Get used to that phrase. Along with “It’s just a phase.” While true, it’s going to irritate the crap out of you because knowing it won’t last doesn’t HELP YOU NOW. But it does help to remember that this won’t last forever and you should try and embrace and cherish the good parts as much as you can. In retrospect, it all goes SO fast.)
-Your life will (still) revolve around someone elses bowel movements.
This starts with pregnancy, this weird poop-centric alternate universe where you spend more time then you ever thought possible thinking, talking and even writing about poop. Discussing your kids poop schedule will be done with your partner over dinner or your mother over coffee. It starts with the whole “Will I poop while pushing?” issue. (Yes.) From there it moves to “Are they pooping enough?” if you’re breastfeeding or “Is this formula making their poop weird” if not, and on to “When will they poop in the potty?” And “Why is there poop on the lamp?” And this won’t end until they are like, fifteen. (With any luck, they’ll stop pooping on the lamp around age six, though.)
-They learn SO much SO fast.
Little ears are listening and little eyes are watching. Everything you do. And right now is the time when their brains are set to full speed. They absorb everything. It’s actually pretty amazing. But don’t be surprised if you hear a Teddy bear repeating a phrase you use, with perfect inflection and all as it talks to a dinosaur. You will see a lot of you reflected back from your child, so it’s probably a good idea to watch what you do and say a bit more now. There’s nothing quite like the fun of hearing a snide remark you’ve made about the other mom in the playgroup coming out of your child in front of said mom at the next Mommy & Me class.
-At some point during this time, you’re going to do something that makes you feel like a failure as a parent.
You aren’t. We all fuck up. One of the good things about toddlers is that they have very bad memory skills. So if you accidentally do lock them in the car and the nice fireman has to come rescue them, chances are, they won’t remember it and i11f they do, it’ll be “That time I saw the fireman with the cool hat!”. Don’t feel too guilty if you drop a can of tuna on their foot or accidentally teach them to be a pyromaniac.
They’ll forgive you. (But your neighbors slightly singed cat might not.)
-Parenting a toddler is a lot like being on a roller-coaster.
There’s ups and downs and the occasional inconvenient vomiting. Every day you’ll look at them and feel your heart burst with love as you realize that adorable little blob of goos and gaas is turning into an actual person. A person that YOU made. And every day you’ll spend some time locked in your bathroom, hiding, because that person that you made really did not want THAT kind of juice in THAT cup. And now he really wants to hit you in the head with said cup. You aren’t bi-polar either. Welcome to toddler-hood.